Central and Eastern Europe

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is today very much open for business. The transitioning economies of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania in particular have attractive long-term growth prospects which make this region an ideal international base.

Covid-19 latest information

This guide is an accurate reflection of the pre-Covid-19 business environment in Central and Eastern Europe. Please note that due to the current situation, some circumstances may have changed in this country. Figures and data in the guide were last updated in August 2020.


Welcome to Central and Eastern Europe

CEE can also count on political stability, improving infrastructure and a highly-skilled workforce. Combined with its freemarket economic principles, and wide geographical spread, this is a prime location for international investment.

HSBC has a distinct presence in Europe, reaching 34 markets and physically operating within 19. Our network covers 99% of European payment flows and 90% of global trade flows.

Bilateral trade is key for HSBC, particularly between Central and Eastern Europe and China. With a long-established commitment to projects such as the Belt & Road Initiative, of which these five CEE countries are part, HSBC is well placed to help businesses navigate this market.

Get in touch to find out how HSBC can help you thrive in Central and Eastern Europe.

We look forward to welcoming you!

Richard J Keery Chief Executive Officer

HSBC Continental Europe, Czech Republic, Na Florenci 2116/15, 110 00, Prague 1, Czech Republic

Dariusz A Kucharski Chief Executive Officer

HSBC Continental Europe (Spółka Akcyjna) Oddział w Polsce, Rondo ONZ 1, 00-124 Warsaw, Poland


82.3 million11
Time zone
UTC +2
Major cities:
Warsaw, Kraków, Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Bucharest
Euro, Polish złoty, Czech koruna, Hungarian Forint, Romanian Leu
Dialling code
Czech Republic +420
Hungary +36
Poland +48
Romania +40
Slovakia +421
Emergency numbers
110 (police), 112 (pan-European emergency services including fire and medical)
Top exports
Auto parts, biochemicals, agriculture, furniture and foodstuffs2
Top imports
Machinery (including computers), vehicles, and mineral fuels (including oil)2
Unemployment rate
Corporation tax
9% to 21% (varies across countries)3

1 World Bank Group, 2018
2 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 2017
3 European Commission, 2018
4 http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2018/06/Global-Peace-Index-2018-2.pdf
5 http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2016/02/09/middle-class-in-eastern-europe-and-central-asia-tripled-in-size-since-2001.html

Central and Eastern Europe: A growth engine

  • Well connected

    A dynamic region with more than 80 million inhabitants, Central and Eastern Europe is a key trading gateway into the European Union and its 500 million consumers.

  • Educated, productive workforce

    The region offers a highly-skilled labour force and its people benefit from high standards of education. Productivity continues to outstrip wage growth in these countries.

  • Cost-effective logistics

    Central and Eastern Europe’s well-developed logistic network offers services at a lower cost than its Western counterparts.

  • Prosperous nations

    Developing much faster than Western Europe, the Eastern flanks are accelerating growth and prosperity across the entire continent.

  • Stable and safe

    Geopolitical and social risks, which exist in many other emerging economies, are not present here. The CEE countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania are considered some of the safest in the world.4

  • Rising consumerism

    Central and Eastern Europe’s middle class has tripled in size in little over a decade – increasing consumption and presenting significant new opportunities for businesses.5

Country profile

Central and Eastern Europe encompasses the countries in Central Europe, the Baltic states and Southeastern Europe. These former communist states now offer some of the most attractive marketplaces in the world.

Its diverse mix of cultures and pro-business climate combine to provide an investment-friendly environment. A growing entrepreneurial culture, fast-rising living standards and safe political environment also add to its appeal.

Central and Eastern Europe’s cost-effective and productive labour market, increasing consumerism and trading potential present significant opportunities for businesses.

This may be a region with a shared past, but it is also one with a bright and vibrant future.

Seen as a ‘gateway to Europe’, particularly by China, increased investment in infrastructure projects also look set to spur economic growth and make the whole region even more accessible.

Read on to discover more about the dos and don’ts of doing business in Central and Eastern Europe. Also, find out how trading in or with these countries could help boost the future growth of your business.

5 reasons to do business in Central and Eastern Europe1

  1. Access to the EU
    It provides a key trading gateway into the European Union and a consumer market of 500 million.
  2. Strong economy
    A prime geographic location contributes to Central and Eastern Europe’s positive economic outlook.
  3. Moderate labour costs
    Close proximity to Europe, with competitive labour costs compared to nearby countries, the CEE is an attractive region for manufacturing.
  4. Skilled workers
    High levels of English proficiency and a skilled workforce have seen the region develop into a key outsourcing destination for IT and back-office operations. The CEE countries are also committed to investment in training and education to sustain grown and boost productivity.
  5. Cultural stability
    One of the missions of the Visegrád Group, made up of the ‘V4’ economies of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, is to further integrate the region into the European Union – promoting cultural values and co-operation along the way.

5 key challenges2

  1. 1

    Ageing populations

    Employment rates across the region are at record lows and the percentage of the working-age population is higher than that of many Western European nations.2

  2. 2

    Competitive disadvantage

    CEE’s advantage of a well-educated workforce also presents a challenge in recruiting labour into key roles across the region.

  3. 3

    Gender inequality

    The collapse of communism and the move to a free market economy has, so far, failed to reduce the gap between men and women in the labour market. Most boardroom positions continue to be held by men.

  4. 4

    Lost in translation?

    Some of the region’s languages can be difficult to understand. Having a local representative on the ground - acting as an interpreter, cultivating networks and serving as a source of cultural knowledge - can be important when doing business.

  5. 5

    Navigating business culture

    Those visiting Central and Eastern Europe for the first time can find it difficult to navigate – cultural differences and ways of doing business can take some time to get used to.

1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2018
2 https://data.oecd.org/pop/working-age-population.htm